SENIOR ONLINE REPORTER
Distinguished educator Mark Gudgel has many accomplishments under his belt, teaching in Lincoln Public Schools for 10 years and before moving to his current position at Omaha North High School. He also worked at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and co-founded and served as executive director of non-profit organization Educators Institute for Human Rights for 6 years to support education in Rwanda as the nation recovers from genocide.
Now, Gudgel is inspired to run for mayor to ensure a bright future not only for his two young kids but for many young people in the Omaha area.
“I’ve always taught my students that your anger is a gift, and you have to turn your anger into energy to fuel the change you want to see in the world,” Gudgel said. “My candidacy is just me taking my own advice and turning my anger into the kid of action that I hope will lead to a better future for our city and for the kids that I care so much about.”
One of Gudgel’s focuses on his campaign is building futures for young Nebraskans in the city, called the Omaha Promise.
“That is the city, bringing together our resources to make sure that our children can get the education and careers that they want to have,” Gudgel said.
For his experience working towards getting his certifications as an educator, he wants many students to be able to have the choice in their education and their future in the city.
“When I speak to my students who are predominantly seniors in high school, one of the things that they often say keeps them from going to college isn’t their ability or their intellect, it’s the fear of being in debt because they seen what it can do to people,” Gudgel said. “I want to make Omaha’s city government bring together our resources and help our children go to college and graduate debt free to have careers and lives they dreamed of.”
Gudgel’s other focuses include affordable housing, wisely budgeting the city’s expenses, addressing climate change, and creating sustainable services including improving the city’s transportation, especially in the North and South Omaha areas.
“We must expand transportation for many reasons. This is an environmental issue, it’s an infrastructure issue, and foremost it’s an equity issue,” Gudgel said. “My goal is to be a mayor that can take a bus to work.”
In his experience using the transit bus system to Omaha North High Magnet School as an educator, driving his car or riding his bike was faster than using the bus system, where it doubles due to longer wait times and won’t stop in essential places like grocery stores, daycare centers, or pharmacies.
“We’ve created a city dependent on cars for transportation,” Gudgel said. “Under my administration, Omaha will be a city in which you can have other greener and cheaper alternatives for transportation.”
The other transportation options that Gudgel hopes to improve in Omaha include increasing walkability and bike accessibility across the city, increasing routes in North and South Omaha, then gradually transitioning the transit buses from diesel to electric for environmental improvements.
“We need to be making sure that North and South Omaha where people need to get out and work no matter what the roads are like to be taken care of,” Gudgel said. “It doesn’t mean we won’t maintain West Omaha, but we’re going to use our resources in a way that is more equitable and better for all of our residents.”
Gudgel also wants to help spend the city’s budget wisely by focusing on things that affect people directly including fixing the potholes and implementing small business initiatives.
“I’ve always said when I’m mayor, we will never again serve Folgers freeze dried crystals at City Hall and it’s not because I’m a coffee snob, it is because we have multiple coffee roasters,” Gudgel said.
“When I buy Folgers, I’m pumping money into a company somewhere that doesn’t benefit my city, outside of the meager taxes that I was able to collect to keep Walmart open. When I go down to Archetype and Hardy Coffee, I am supporting local art industry and businesses that employs local people where the money stays in the community and make the lives of people in Omaha better.”
Gudgel says mayoral elections directly affect Omaha residents at the local level.
“I’ve been a public servant for 17 years, I’m a high school English teacher and I am not changing careers,” Gudgel said. “I serve 200 people a year, give or take and I love it, but I saw the opportunity to serve half a million people and I want to bring the same spirit and heart that I bring to teaching to the City Hall every day.”
To sign up and volunteer in Gudgel’s campaign, visit gudgelformayor.com.